But no matter how nice the Pride members were, they weren’t Wolves. They weren’t Pack, something she was reminded of every full moon since she’d been granted leave to stay.

She was still Outcast.

She made it to her car and changed into the clothes she’d left on the hood. The shift caused the cut to bleed even more freely until it closed, leaving a sore spot on the bottom of her foot she felt after she put her sneakers on. She dug her keys out of her pocket, eager to get back to her apartment and the caffeine her roommates would have waiting for her.

“Well. Look who it is.”

Tabby tensed at that hated voice, the one fly in the ointment of her happiness in Halle. He’d stayed downwind, or she would have noticed him approaching before now and moved a hell of a lot faster. “Gary.” She turned to find her nemesis and his two best friends standing naked behind her. They must have shifted and run from somewhere else. There was no other car here, and none of their clothes littered the ground.

She held back her Wolf’s growl with difficulty. She was terrified. This wasn’t the first time the other Wolves had confronted her, but this was the first time they’d managed to catch her alone. From the gleam in Gary’s eye, if she didn’t get away, she’d be in a world of hurt. “What do you want?”

Gary grinned, his fangs sharp, his eyes going from hazel to light brown. He rubbed his hand up and down his growing cock suggestively. The other two moved to flank her and she knew she was in deep shit.

As an Outcast, technically Tabby was fair game for any Wolf who wanted a bit of sport. So far, very few Wolves had made their way to Halle. Most of the shifters who attended the college were local themselves, and therefore part of the Halle Pride. She’d stayed out of the way of those who weren’t part of the Pride, especially the Wolves. She’d been terrified of what would happen if she approached them. The Alpha of the nearest Pack wouldn’t be any help. She’d seen him once from a distance, and he was large and scary looking. Rick Lowell had the coldest blue eyes she’d ever seen. Tabby was too afraid to approach him, to try to become a part of his Pack. He’d take one look at her and know she wasn’t worthy of a home.

Now she wished she’d been able to find the courage to ask. Maybe she might have to earn her way into his Pack. Maybe she would be safe from the advances of Wolves like Gary, but it would have meant leaving Halle and placing every aspect of her existence in the hands of someone else again. And that was the last thing Tabby wanted to do. At least here in Halle the Pumas were fairly laidback. She didn’t bother them, they didn’t bother her. They were friendly, but distant, and she liked it that way.

Tabby shivered. Three against one were not good odds. She had her keys in her hand, but the car was locked. If she hit the button to unlock it, they’d be on her before she could get the door open.

But there was the other button…

Bravado was the only way she could see out of this. She knew some of the Pumas had been out running the night before. With luck, one of them would wander by and stop Gary before he did what he so obviously wanted to do. “Fuck off, Gary!”

He glared at her shout. “You think anyone is gonna come and save you, Tabby ?”

He sneered the nickname, his idiot Pack brothers laughing like a group of hyenas. “You’re Outcast . Your ass is mine.” He took a step forward, his eyes shifting to brown.

Wolf’s eyes. Just what she’d been waiting for.

Tabby hit the panic button on her remote. The car horn began blaring, the lights flashing. The trio slapped their hands over their ears, their faces screwed up in pain, their sensitive ears assaulted by something that wouldn’t bother their human senses.

Taking advantage of their surprise, Tabby hit the button that unlocked the car door and scrambled for the handle.

She got the door open and herself inside before any of them reached her. She slammed the door on the fingers of one of Gary’s goons, his scream almost as loud as the alarm. He pulled his fingers free and she got the door shut, locking it before Gary could pull the driver’s side door open.

He began punching the glass. She flinched, but kept moving, sliding behind the steering wheel. She started the car, screaming when Gary’s third punch cracked the glass.

She took off, peeling out of the gravel-strewn parking lot, her tires kicking up stones. She fishtailed before getting the car under control, heading straight for the road back into Halle.

Tabby was shaking like a leaf. This was the closest Gary had ever come to laying hands on her. He and his goons had been content before with taunting her or egging the storefront where she worked. She’d been careful to never be alone.

How could she have been so thoughtless? Still, she hadn’t thought they’d resort to… She shuddered again. She didn’t even want to think about what she’d just escaped from.

Tabby needed help. She just hoped Gabe and the other Pumas would listen to her, because if they turned her away, she had every intention of running until her paws gave out.

“Wow. Your life’s a mess, sweetheart.” Julian Ducharme popped another kernel of popcorn into his mouth and grinned. “Good thing you have someone like me around to help.”

Tabby snorted. She wasn’t the only outsider who’d drifted into Halle recently.

Julian had come into Living Art Tattoos a month ago and managed to endear himself to each and every one of the girls who worked there. Even tough Cyn, the owner, had taken a liking to the friendly Bear with the heart of gold. “And how do you think you can help me, hmm?”

He put the bowl down and wiped his greasy hands on a paper towel. The movie they’d been bickering over continued in the background, neither of them paying any attention to it. Although she did risk a peek when Aragorn was on screen.

Viggo Mortensen was hot in The Two Towers. “First, I’m going to do something about that sore foot of yours.”

She winced. She couldn’t hide the slightest amount of pain from Julian. It freaked her out sometimes. The first time he’d said something, she’d gotten a splinter not seconds before. He’d frowned, turned her hand around and pulled the splinter out before she could even say “ow”. “I think I stepped on a chunk of glass or something.”

“Or something,” he muttered darkly, pulling her bare foot onto his lap. “This will only take a sec.” One finger smoothed down the ball of her foot and Tabby, who was outrageously ticklish, felt…nothing. “Wiggle your toes.”